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JUNE 29, 2012 DATE

NR # 2785

Lawmaker wants separate jail for youthful offenders

Youthful offenders will not be detained in jails where hardened criminals are being confined under a bill seeking to protect juvenile delinquents. Rep. Winston Castelo (2nd District, Quezon City), author of House Bill 6068, said youth offenders could not be exposed to inadequate health care, subhuman conditions in jails where highrisk elements are detained. Castelo cited the practice in the country wherein young delinquents are detained together with high-risk criminals in various jails. Castelo, author of the proposed Juvenile Prisoners Benefits Act of 2012, said young offenders should have a separate confinement while still being investigated by police authorities. As youthful offenders, they should never be mixed but instead segregated from hardened criminals, Castelo argued. Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act 2006 (JJWA) exempts minors 15 years of age and below from criminal liability, and only allows criminal punishment for minors above 15 to below 18 years of age if it is proven that they acted with discernment. However, Castelos bill neither specifies nor proposes any particular amendment to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, including penalties to violations provided under the bill. Castelo cited a constitutional provision, which states that the employment of physical, psychological, or degrading punishment against any prisoner or detainee or the use of substandard or inadequate penal, facilities under subhuman conditions shall be dealt with by law. Precisely we want to address the case of juvenile delinquents, children in conflict with the law, or youthful offenders that have been a growing concern if not an emerging social problem even of agencies supposed to insure a decent disposition, custody or treatment of youthful offenders, Castelo said. Under the bill, the benefits of juvenile delinquents, children in conflict with the law, or youthful offenders while in jail or detention centers or facilities shall include decent food, a comfortable detention or prison cell, an ample space or area, a very short time of stay in jail, a general condition of humane treatment and separation from hardened criminals. Castelo said there is need to promote the intent of our juvenile justice system, giving paramount importance to the future integration of the youthful offender into the normal vein of society. The idea is to reform these juvenile delinquents, giving them the opportunity to be lawabiding and productive citizens and not a bane of society, Castelo said. (30) dpt